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Author Interview: Dan E. Hendrickson

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Katie Specht is talking with Dan E. Hendrickson, author of Magi Apprentice.

FQ: You are no stranger to the written word, having authored eight novels, including your most recent, Magi Apprentice. It appears that Magi Apprentice is your first book that is based on Christianity rather than a secular story. What was the inspiration behind the shift to this kind of story?

HENDRICKSON: I have been a Christian minister for 35 years. My other books, though secular, have many Christian themes and principles woven into the fabric of their stories. I have always loved reading the Bible and find great satisfaction in delving into the accounts of people’s lives in its pages. When considering the Wise Men of Matthew chapter two, I have always wondered about their backgrounds, motivation, and logistics of their journey to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. My inspiration to write about their stories started when I first realized who they were and how their disciplines of astronomical studies originated. Some of this you can find from the Bible itself and some from historical research. After learning about them in ministering school and beyond, I just naturally wanted to tell a story about who they were and how they might have been able to accomplish their journey.

FQ: With your degree in Practical Theology, did you find that you already knew most of the background knowledge necessary for writing this story, or was it necessary to conduct research in order to write Magi Apprentice?

HENDRICKSON: My education as a minister gave me much of what I needed to tell the story, but it was the research I continued to do about the eastern magi that finally enabled me to put the story together.

FQ: You share that you picked up on your father’s love of the written word when you decided to major in journalism in college. Would you credit your father with being the motivation for you starting to write novels?

HENDRICKSON: Absolutely, my dad was an English professor and the most prolific reader I have ever known. My brother and I used to marvel at his ability to read 2 or 3 full-length novels a week. He also loved to write poetry and plays. I only wish he were alive today because he would have been my primary editor and would have helped me bring my stories along.

FQ: Once you got your degree in journalism, where did your career path take you? In your bio, you share you discovered that you had an aptitude for investigative reporting, but it sounds like you did not pursue it for very long. Was it simply not enjoyable to you?

HENDRICKSON: It was in college when I felt the calling to become a Christian Minister. Though I worked in the newspaper industry as a reporter while still in college and had good success in tracking down and reporting interesting stories, I just felt that I wanted to be a minister instead.

FQ: Martial arts seem to be an important part of your life, both studying it as a student yourself and teaching it to others. Can you share a bit about how you became involved in this sport?

HENDRICKSON: In high school, I competed in an AAU boxing league in Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado. During that time, I also studied Judo. I was the competition that I was good at, and back then, it helped channel my more aggressive tendencies to a safer outlet. When I went to college, I joined a school called Bill Shaw Kung Fu and Karate in Casper, Wyoming. Bill turned out to be a celebrity in the martial arts community having choreographed fight scenes for movies like Teenage Mutant Ninga Turtles, Get Carter, Sylvester Stallone, and Shootfighter with Billy Zabka. Bill’s combination of being one of the best Martial Artists in the country and knowing how to make it look real and exciting in a movie had a big effect on me. I thought that his know-how would be valuable in learning how to put good fight scenes into words and could be profitable. Turns out that every fight scene he’d ever choreographed had to be written out and put into a script first. He shared some of this technique with his students to show us how to articulate and teach our style to other students. Later in life, I used these methods in my books.

FQ: As Magi Apprentice is a work of historical fiction, how did you make the determination of which characters to include in your story that were historical figures from the time period and which characters you created for the story?

HENDRICKSON: Well, very little is known about the Wise Men that visited the child Jesus and his parents in Matthew 2. What we know is that they were Magi from the East. The Magi of that time period were as diversified as the religious denominations today. So, the fictional characters I made up were made up from the templates of what I could find about those different religions in the Parthian, Median, and Arabic cultures. Rassan, my main character, is depicted as the son of Parthia’s most famous general, Surena, who defeated the Roman Army of Marcus Crassus at Carrhae. That victory was the greatest achieved by the Parthian Empire. Surena was outnumbered 4 to 1. 79,000 Roman soldiers were annihilated by 20,000 Parthian calvary and archers. This historical fact gave my main character a lot of ground to move in and out of Parthian Culture, including the Magi, with ease. The fixed historical characters like Phraates IV and V, Herod the Great and others, gave me the framework to develop my story plausibly. The main thrust behind the narrative of Magi Apprentice is the endeavor to show how a bunch of Eastern Magi could enter the kingdom of Israel, gain entourage into Herod the Greats presence and procure help from him to find someone that these magi believed would replace him and his family’s rule. Without giving away any spoilers, I will just encourage those interested in reading the book and find out how it has them accomplishing this phenomenon.

FQ: The drawings of the constellations toward the end of the book were a welcome surprise as I was reading. What was your motivation for including these, and did you do the drawings of them yourself?

HENDRICKSON: The drawings were made by the same person who did the cover art. She is a brilliant oil painting artist named Carla Phillips. I had her draw them to look like some type of note taking the magi would do as they observed the pertinent astronomical configurations. They are historically accurate renditions of the configurations that occurred at the dates cited in the book. My motivation was to display the genuine accuracy of the astronomical configurations that many renowned scholars believe are the ones that declare the birth of Christ.

FQ: How did writing Magi Apprentice, a story based on Christianity, differ from writing all your previous secular novels?

HENDRICKSON: Research, research, research. Magi Apprentice is the most intensely researched book I have written to date. Staying accurate with dates, events, and culture of the time was a major focus of my research. Outside of that writing, it was the same as the others. I thought that telling the tale from an action adventure, romance and thriller perspective would make it more enjoyable to read.

FQ: What was your motivation for wanting to write a book based on the story of Herod and the Magi?

HENDRICKSON: I have been fascinated by the ancient astronomers from the east that could see and understand the astronomical conjunctions that declared the birth of Christ since my youth. Telling a story about them just developed naturally over the years.

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